Family law affects all types of people from all walks of life. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that people in the military occasionally have to deal with the family courts. While the military has some very particularized rules and procedures uniquely its own: divorce and allocation of parental responsibility cases remain within the purview of state courts. Because service members (and their spouses) have questions about what to expect, we’ve taken the time to create this article, the “Military Divorce Boot Camp”, that discusses some of the complications that can occur with divorce cases when military service is involved.
Military Divorce Boot Camp: Similarities with Civilian Divorces
There are some aspects that make military divorce unique. With that being said, there are also many ways in which a divorce involving a service member is similar to a divorce between civilians. For example, the procedure of a military divorce is largely the same. The matter is initiated with the filing of a petition. After that, the procedure of a military divorce continues to follow a similar pattern to civilian divorces. The parties will have to file sworn financial statements, complete parenting classes, attempt to settle at mediation, and potentially proceed to a contested permanent orders hearing. Therefore, from a distance, military divorce and civilian divorce are largely similar.
Military Divorce Boot Camp: Differences
One of the prerequisites to seeking the assistance of the court is that the court must have jurisdiction to hear the case. To that end, one of the parties must be domiciled within the state for at least 91 days before filing the petition. For issues involving children, the kiddos usually need to be within the state for 6 months. The primary concern with service members is the question of domicile. A person may have multiple residences, but a person only has 1 domicile at any given time. Loosely, a person’s domicile is where they intend to permanently reside. Therefore, with a military member, domicile can be a difficult question. For example, just because a service member is stationed in a certain area, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a domiciliary of that area. Therefore, this can be an important question to determine.
Timing vs Deployment
In a civilian divorce, one of the spouses doesn’t generally have the right to delay the case. With military members, however, deployment may provide the service person with the right to put the case on hold. Generally, the service member may ask the court to pause the court process, until their deployment ends or they otherwise return from duty. With that being said, the service member may choose not to invoke this right if they’d rather participate from afar and expedite the process.
One of the most difficult aspects of military divorce is the effect it can have on parental responsibilities. Because a service person may change stations multiple times throughout their service, and may be deployed overseas, the courts will frequently take this into account when allocating parental responsibilities. Therefore, the court may order that one parent is the primary parent of the children. In this situation, the primary parent will typically exercise parenting time during the majority of the school year. Turning towards the service member, they will tend to have a large concentration of parenting time during summer vacation and other school breaks.
This has been the Military Divorce Boot Camp. While there are certainly other differences between military divorce and civilian divorce, we’ve highlighted a few key distinctions. If you’re a member of the military, or if you’re married to a service person, take the time to speak to an attorney knowledgeable in military divorces. Here at JMLG, we provide free consultations with our team of attorneys. Give us a call today for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
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